In the slanted world of Charlotte Alter, the “center” is liberal 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg and Barack Obama made voting an “act of love.” MSNBC on Tuesday brought on the Time magazine journalist to explain the state of millennials politics and how her generation will “transform America.” The book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, pulls its title from a Barack Obama speech.
Tur, who is 36, made no effort to check the biases of Alter, who is 36. Speaking of millennials and Obama, Alter enthused, “One reason is that Barack Obama was such a transformative figure for people. And he was for many people our age the first president that they really got behind. And he made voting into an act of love. ”
It’s hard to argue with an act of love.
According to the Time journalist, this doesn’t bode well for Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg:
They think of [voting] as something they only do for something they care about and really believe in. And that makes it really hard for somebody like a Michael Bloomberg or a Joe Biden to attract millennial voters, because they don't believe in them that much.
After Tur explained that democratic socialism “is not a scary term” for young people, Alter lectured that the word socialism no longer means what it actually means:
One of the things I try to get at in this book is the extent to which 20th century attitudes that our parents and grandparents had, are sort of evolving and even crumbling into the 21st century. So, for example, socialism means something different now than it did in the 1980s.
Another thing the book is about, apparently, is that Buttigieg is now the “middle” and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now the left:
One of the things this book is about is the swing from the center right politics in the 1980s and '90s, that was defined by Reagan on one side and Clinton on the other. It's kind of swinging back to the left. A style of politics that may be defined by AOC on the far left and maybe someone like Pete Buttigieg in the middle.
Alter is the same journalist who was mocked for saying that millennials like her had “never experienced American prosperity.” For the record, she went to Harvard and is the daughter of best selling author Jonathan Alter. Sounds like prosperity, right? In 2019, Alter wrote a fawning Time cover story on Ocasio-Cortez, calling her a “phenom” and “the best storyeller in the party.”
A partial transcript is below:
2:45 PM ET
KATY TUR: Americans born between 1980 and 1996 have a much different outlook on life and this country. Columbine, September 11th and the great recession shaped their world view. Now in their mid 20s to late 30s, this new generation is not only starting to make its political will known, it is also starting to take on leadership roles. The new book The Ones We've Been Waiting For contrasts two of the nation’s youngest politicians, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Just as Pete had rooted his campaign in his experience of 9/11, school shootings and the war on terror, AOC rooted her endorsement of Sanders in her own experience as a working class millennial waitress with student debt.” The book features a list of 10 millennial, including members of Congress, Representatives, alumni of the Obama White House and representatives from city and state government.
Joining me now, Time magazine national correspondent, Charlotte Alter. She is the author of the new book The Ones We Have Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America. So, Charlotte, I picked this book up and I had a hard time putting it down, which I think is the best endorsement you can give any piece of reading material. also found it really not only inspiring, but also kind of hit home for me because I'm a millennial, and the events that you base this book around are events that I experienced when I was basically the same age as many of these — as many of the people you profiled. Tell me, what did you learn about millennials and what they want?
CHARLOTTE ALTER: So this is exactly the point, right? Social scientists have found that people actually base their politics on the events that they experienced in early adulthood. And once you reach kind of your late 30s, early 40s, really even your mid 30s, most of your attitudes are set. So it's not really about being young or being old. It's what events shaped your perception of America and its role in the world? For a lot of people our age it was 9/11, the great recession, the wars that followed 9/11, which made a lot of people our age skeptical of foreign interference abroad.
TUR: Hasn't been an optimistic few decades.
ALTER: No, it's not been great. But in there you had the election of Barack Obama, which was utterly transformational for a lot of millennials. And then you have these leader-ful, social movements that have kind of given rise to the progressive movement as we know it now and have really rooted millennial activism in this kind of networked, non-hierarchal structure that helps us understand how they see power differently than their parents did.
TUR: How do they see — and this is — you don't only profile Democrats. Elise Stefanik is in it. Dan Crenshaw is in it as well. But generally, you found that most millennials are more progressive than baby boomers or even Generation X, if I'm not mistaken. How has that shaped what they're looking for and what they will lead, how they will lead in the future? Democratic socialism is not a scary term for them?
ALTER: Exactly. So, one of the things I try to get at in this book is the extent to which 20th century attitudes that our parents and grandparents had, are sort of evolving and even crumbling into the 21st century. So, for example, socialism means something different now than it did in the 1980s. And, again, the oldest millennials were 8 or 9 when the Berlin wall fell. So, they don't have any of that Cold War context around socialism that our parents and grandparents might. Attitudes around the free market, attitudes around foreign interference, attitudes around morality, the morality of the Christian right in particular, even the Republicans I spoke to seem to have kind of moved on from the issue of marriage equality. They're just like, “That’s over. That’s settled. You know, we’re great with marriage quality. Let’s move on.” There are certain issues, for example, climate change, racial equality and marriage equality, in particular, that millennial Democrats and Republicans seem to be agreeing on.
TUR: They’re also dealing with, people of our generation, crushing student debt, which is why you see AOC talking about what it means to go to college, what it means to be paying for college for the rest of your life. That is not something that baby boomers had to deal with. It's not something that the greatest generation had to deal with. People weren't going to college at the same numbers they are now.
ALTER: Yeah. When Mitch McConnell graduated from college in 1964, tuition cost $360. So the sheer cost of college has gone way up and $360. So just the sheer cost of college has gone way up. And the funding for public universities has gone way down.
TUR: Cut by Baby Boomers.
ALTER: Cut by Baby Boomers. Exactly.
TUR: Who are telling millennials to suck it up, because they had to do it, even though they didn't have that debt.
ALTER: Exactly. So, one of the things this book is about is the swing from the center right politics in the 1980s and '90s, that was defined by Reagan on one side and Clinton on the other. It's swinging back to the left. A style of politics that may be defined by AOC on the far left and maybe someone like Pete Buttigieg in the middle.
TUR: Why doesn't our generation vote in large numbers?
ALTER: It's a great question. I think that it's because, first of all, millennial turnout did double in the 2018 midterms from 2014. So, it's certainly going in the right direction. But one reason is that Barack Obama was such a transformative figure for people. And he was for many people our age the first president that they really got behind. And he made voting into an act of love. So, I don't think millennials think of voting as their duty, they think of it as something they only do for something they care about and really believe in. And that makes it really hard for somebody like a Michael Bloomberg or a Joe Biden to attract millennial voters, because they don't believe in them that much.